The past week brought refreshing news about some favorite Las Vegas artists. It’s been a symphony of activity. Let’s count it in now:
Moreno on Billboard
Frankie Moreno has hit the Billboard charts significantly with his latest album, “Naked,” debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, that category that tracks emerging artists.
Moreno, who has performed professionally since he was age 10, is considered “emerging” because he has not previously charted under his own name. He has previously twice topped the charts in collaboration with violin great Joshua Bell, with a cover of “Eleanor Rigby” that reached No. 1 on the Classical and Classical Crossover charts.
The latest in a string of four full-length albums released in rat-a-tat-tat succession, “Naked” dropped Feb. 8 and sold 10,000 copies over the first four days (counting downloads and hard-CD sales). This high-charting position follows Moreno’s holiday album, “Frankie’s Christmas Party,” which hit No. 6; and “Broke Down in Paradise” (featuring “The Biggest Cat In Town, the theme for Podkats!) at No. 10.
The strong sales can be attributes to Moreno’s own artistic tenacity, his band’s versatility, and the unbending support of his Las Vegas-based fan club. Moreno’s FM Army fan club now exceeds 100,000 members across the country, a massive and growing database of supporters who buy new albums and fill venues (such as the odd triumvirate of Carnegie Hall, South Point Showroom, and Myron’s Cabaret Jazz).
Moreno’s goal is to boost sales enough to move to the Billboard Hot 100 or Pop charts — which would require about 150,000 in a week and throw Moreno into the Bruno Mars-Taylor Swift pantheon. As Moreno says, “Once you hit that once, you can’t be ‘emerging’ anymore.”
But his recent run of releases has been impressive: Five albums and three singles since last August, three of which have hit the top 10 in the Billboard Heatseeker chart. Moreno says, “This has probably been my biggest achievement in albums, so far.”
Emmet parlays ‘Passera’
Las Vegas vocalist Daniel Emmet, who reached the top 10 finalists in Season 13 of “America’s Got Talent” this year, has released the single and video to “Passera.” That is the song Simon Cowell directed Emmet to sing in the vocalist’s televised audition in June.
In piece of competition-TV suspense, Emmet had started with his own original, “Amante,” but Cowell cut the performance short and told Emmet to sing a different song — and gave him an hour to do it. “Passera,” by Il Divo, was that song, and Emmet’s flawless performance moved him into the qualifying round.
Emmet has since embraced the song in the studio, recording his version with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and releasing the song Thursday. In its first day, it hit No. 2 on the iTunes Classical Music Chart’s top 100. Emmet is working with veteran musician and music director Jerry Williams, who is musical director for Donny & Marie’s residency at Flamingo Las Vegas. The two are planning shows this spring and summer in town, and also a tour of performing arts centers around the country.
Emmet was offered but unable to perform on the “AGT: Champions” series, but the performer who won Season 13 — magician Shin Lim — is among the three finalists in contention to win the title. The announcement is Monday night.
“It seems like my time on ‘AGT’ ended just yesterday, and also forever ago,” Emmet says. “I have been loving watching the show. Everybody is incredibly talented.” In his own career, Emmet says he’ll continue to “use pop as the gateway drug for opera.” One of us coined that phrase, during Emmet’s time on “AGT.” Call it a collab.
Freeman in line
Andrew Freeman, late of “Raiding the Rock Vault” at Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel, is today the full-throated vocalist for Last In Line. The hard-rock band is populated by music strongmen Vivian Campbell, guitarist for Def Leppard; Phil Soussan, bassist for the Ozzy Osbourne band; and Vinny Appice, drummer for Black Sabbath.
That lineup is also famous in heavy-metal circles as the musicians for Dio, Ronnie James’ Dio’s backing band — the outfit was actually assembled as a tribute to Dio, taking the name from a Dio album. That was eight years ago; Freeman joined in 2012.
Last week, Last In Line issued the new single, “Blackout The Sun,” from its upcoming second album, “II,” which drops on Feb. 22. The band performs at Golden Nugget on on April 26, and of course Campbell is performing with Def Leppard over 12 dates at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood from Aug. 14-Sept. 7.
“It’s pretty amazing being in this band,” Freeman says. “I get to tour the world and make music with three of the greatest musicians on the planet. Guys who I idolized when I was younger have now become my brothers.”
Sync ‘n’ swim
Las Vegas artists Rockie Brown and Jason Tanzer have signed a “sync licensing” deal with a series of networks for their music to be played in the background of famous cable shows. We’re talking, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Total Divas,” and “Total Bellas” on E!; “The Real World” on MTV; “The Healer” on TLC; “Born This Way” on A&E; “Miz & Mrs.” on USA; “Family or Fiance” on OWN; and also during Discovery and NASCAR international programming.
The snippets in the shows are pulled from recent releases from Brown and Tanzer (or “RockJase,” as I will collectively refer to them). “Rockstar Baby,” “Alive,” Hero” and “Kings & Queens” are among the 10 songs in rotation.
This is top-shelf artistry. Brown and Tanzer have been performing around town for months with DJ Optic in an inventive electronic-rock fusion act. The duo’s mix partner, Dan Brodbeck, has won a Juno Award (Canada’s top music honor) for Engineer of the Year.
No idea when or where these songs will be heard during broadcasts. But this all means that I can finally say, “You should watch the Kardashians to support original Las Vegas music.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.